International Criminology World

World : Europe : Finland

The origins of the Finnish people are still a matter of conjecture, although many scholars argue that their original home was in what is now west-central Siberia. The Finns arrived in their present territory thousands of years ago, pushing the indigenous Lapps into the more remote northern regions. Finnish and Lappish--the language of Finland's small Lapp minority--both are Finno-Ugric languages and are in the Uralic rather than the Indo-European family.

Finland's nearly 700-year association with the Kingdom of Sweden began in 1154 with the introduction of Christianity by Sweden's King Eric. During the ensuing centuries, Finland played an important role in the political life of the Swedish-Finnish realm, and Finnish soldiers often predominated in Swedish armies. Finns also formed a significant proportion of the first "Swedish" settlers in 17th-century America.

Following Finland's incorporation into Sweden in the 12th century, Swedish became the dominant language, although Finnish recovered its predominance after a 19th-century resurgence of Finnish nationalism. Publication in 1835 of the Finnish national epic, The Kalevala--a collection of traditional myths and legends--first stirred the nationalism that later led to Finland's independence from Russia.

In 1809, Finland was conquered by the armies of Czar Alexander I and thereafter remained an autonomous grand duchy connected with the Russian Empire until the end of 1917. On December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence. In 1918, the country experienced a brief but bitter civil war that colored domestic politics for many years. During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice--in the Winter War of 1939-40 and again in the Continuation War of 1941-44. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944-45, when Finland fought against the Germans as they withdrew their forces from northern Finland.

Treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with the Soviet Union included obligations and restraints on Finland vis-a-vis the U.S.S.R. as well as territorial concessions by Finland; both have been abrogated by Finland since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Finland has a mixed presidential/parliamentary system with executive powers divided between the president, who has primary responsibility for national security and foreign affairs, and the prime minister, who has primary responsibility for all other areas. Constitutional changes made in the late 1980s strengthened the prime minister--who must enjoy the confidence of the parliament (Eduskunta)--at the expense of the president. Finland's 1995 accession to the European Union has blurred the line between foreign and domestic policy; the respective roles of the president and prime minister are evolving, and plans are under consideration to rewrite the constitution to clarify these and other issues. Finns enjoy individual and political freedoms, and suffrage is universal at 18. The country's population is ethnically homogeneous with no sizable immigrant population. Few tensions exist between the Finnish-speaking majority and the Swedish-speaking minority.


Finland has a industrial economy based on abundant forest resources, capital investments, and technology. Traditionally, Finland has been a net importer of capital to finance industrial growth. In the 1980s, Finland's economic growth rate was one of the highest of industrialized countries. Finland has been among the fastest-growing economies in the European Union (EU) for several years, with GDP reaching 5.6% in 2000, fueled by the booming Nokia-led electronics industry. With an export-led recovery from a severe recession triggered by the collapse of the Soviet market in early 1990s, GDP has grown at an annual average rate of 4.8% since 1994. Unemployment has decreased significantly since 1994, however the current 9.1% unemployment rate (2001) remains above the EU average. Finland's membership in the EU (Finland joined on January 1, 1995) has helped spur structural changes in key economic sectors. However, total output grew only marginally in 2001, when GDP growth amounted to 0.7%. The last time output increased as little was in 1993, at the end of the last recession. The growth in 2001 was stalled by a reduction in worldwide consumption demand, with exports, the traditional growth motor, struggling.

An extensive social welfare system includes a variety of pension and assistance programs and a comprehensive health insurance program. Currently, Finland spends 6.2% of GDP on health care. Free education through the university level also is available. According to a recent OECD report, from December 2001, Finnish teenagers were rated as having the best reading literacy among OECD countries. In the mid-1970s, the educational system was reformed with the goal of equalizing educational opportunities. Beginning at age seven, all Finnish children are required to attend a "basic school" of nine grade levels. After this, they may elect to continue along an academic (lukio) or vocational (ammattikoulu) line. But most pursue vocational studies, since the number of openings in higher educational institutions is less than the demand.


When the present Criminal Code of Finland was adopted one hundred years ago in 1889, it was a typical product of the classical school of penal law. At the time, the purpose of punishment was primarily seen to be retribution for the offense. Soon after the adoption of the Criminal Code, however, the principle of individual prevention (rehabilitation) began to influence criminal law thinking and practice. Accordingly, common European and also Finnish criminal policy witnessed a swing towards the belief that punishment should be individually tailored to the offender, for the treatment or incapacitation. How-ever, this philosophy of individual prevention has been largely criticized on the basis of practical experience, research results and considerations of justice. More emphasis should be put on general prevention (mainly in the sense of reinforcement of moral and social norms). At the same time, the principles of justice and humaneness have a limit-setting function for the operation of the criminal justice system. The recent development indicates a differentiation of criminal policy strategies - whether we have in mind social planning, crime prevention, penal law, or criminal sanctions policy. There is an increased consciousness of values, costs and alternatives in criminal policy. As for the criminal sanctions, the pendulum of criminal policy has swung somewhat in the other direction: for increased attention to individual prevention (e.g., the adoption of community service as a criminal sanction). It is important to notice that the arsenal of possible means of criminal policy has become larger compared with the traditional (repression or rehabilitated oriented) penal system.

The main criteria of a rational criminal justice system can be described by demanding for an effective, just and humane penal system. As for the application of criminal law, the principles related to the requirement of justice are particularly important. The fundamental principles of criminal law - such as legality, equality and humaneness - are strongly based on human and constitutional rights. The Constitution of Finland (1999/731) defines the basic principle of legality in criminal cases in the following way: No one shall be found guilty of a criminal offense or be sentenced to a punishment on the basis of a deed, which was not determined punishable by an Act of Parliament at the time of its commission (Section 8; "nullum crimen sine lege, nulla poena sine lege poenali"). Equality demands that all cases falling within a specific category are dealt with in the same way without unjustified discrimination (Section 6 of the Constitution). The respect for humaneness (or human dignity) requires that no one shall be sentenced to death, tortured or otherwise treated in an a manner violating human dignity (Section 7 of the Constitution).

Such basic elements of a due process or fair trial as the right of access to court, independent and impartial tribunal, the presumption of innocence and guarantees of procedural rights have traditionally been recognized in Finnish procedural law. However, the ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights in 1990 and the reform of fundamental rights guaranteed in the Finnish Constitution (have strengthened the importance of those principles. The same can be said about the major reforms of procedural law which have been carried out during the past 15 years.

The principles of culpability and proportionality require that the sentence shall be in just proportion to the damage and danger caused by the offense and to the culpability of the offender manifest in the offense. This principle, which also implies that the court takes into consideration all official and even unofficial penal and non-penal consequences of an offense, establishes the maximum punishment. The principle of proportionality is not seen to prevent mitigation of punishment where this is deemed reasonable. In practical terms, there has been a deliberate movement towards a more lenient system of criminal sanctions, and especially towards a reduction in the use of custodial sentences. During the 1990s, of all criminal cases brought before the courts, a clear majority result in fines (60%) or a conditional sentence (20%). About 10 % are sentenced to imprisonment (usually between 3 and 6 months) and about 6-7 % to community service. In less than 2 % of cases the court waives further sanctions. The level of punishments is Finland and in the other Nordic countries more lenient than in most of the other European or non-European countries.

No one is liable for conduct committed when he or she was under fifteen years of age or when he or she lacks criminal responsibility (insanity defense). Unless otherwise stated explicitly, a criminal law offense is punishable only if committed intentionally, not through negligence. The Criminal Code and other enactments criminalize a number of acts of negligence. The concept of strict liability in criminal law is not recognized. However, certain types of penal administrative sanctions (such as for limitations of competition or for excess weight on a lorry) are in use and their preconditions may resemble those of strict liability. The grounds for justification and exculpation (defenses) are noted in chapter 3 of the Criminal Code. They include insanity, self-defense, use of force by an authority, necessity, self-help and obedience to superior order. Certain other grounds are based on other provisions or are recognized in the doctrine and practice; examples include certain voluntary retreat from an offense, certain mistakes of law, and consent.

The age of criminal responsibility in Finland is fifteen years. Offenses committed by those below this age can not be dealt with by any court; the case is turned over to the municipal social welfare or child welfare board for consideration in accordance with the Child Welfare Act (1983/683). Offenders between fifteen and twenty (inclusive) at the time of the offense are subject to the Young Offenders Act (1940/262). The primary differences in the sentencing of young offenders and adult offenders lie in the fact that offenders between the ages of fifteen and seventeen (inclusive) benefit from a mitigated scale of punishment, and that they benefit from a greater possibility for the waiving if measures or suspending sentence. Furthermore, an offender who was under eighteen at the time of the offense cannot be sentenced to unconditional imprisonment unless there are important reasons for doing so. In addition, there are some differences in enforcement which are dealt with below. The provision on criminal responsibility 8 states that an act of an insane person and act by a person mentally deficient due to senility or another similar reason shall be remain unpunishable. If the offender was in a state of diminished responsibility, sentencing is based on a more lenient scale. Self-induced intoxication is not considered to diminish the offender's criminal responsibility. The assessment of the criminal responsibility of the offender is made by the court; when the court deems this necessary, the assessment is made on the basis of the results of a mental examination carried out by the medical authorities. Unless the defendant consents to such a mental examination, it may be carried out only if the offense is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. Self-defense is defined by chapter 3, section 6 of the Criminal Code as protecting oneself or another or the property of oneself or of another against an already begun or an imminent unjustified attack, where this act was necessary to repel the attack. According to section 7, self-defense is also justified when a person forces his or her way without authorization into the room, house, estate or vessel of another, or when a person caught in the act resists another who is trying to take back his or her own property. Chapter 3, section 10 defines necessity as the commission of a punishable act in order to save oneself or another, or the property of oneself or another, from an overpowering danger, and if it would otherwise have been impossible to avoid this danger. The following section, 10a, deals with the obedience to superior order. The section states that a subordinate can be punished for an offense committed in accordance with the order of a superior officer only if the offender had clearly understood that by obeying the order he or she would be violating the law or his official or service duties. If, however, the act has occurred in circumstances in which the subordinate could not have disobeyed the order, he or she may be left unpunished.

Traditionally, Finnish criminal law has not recognized corporate liability for an offense. However, as part of the total reform of criminal law, as of 1 September 1995 (1995/743) a corporate fine can be imposed on corporate bodies, in whose operations a specified offense (e.g., professional money laundering or certain environmental offense) has been committed. There must be a defined connection between the individual offender and the corporation. It is not necessary to punish the individual offender or even identify him or her. It must, however, be proved that the a person belonging to a statutory organ or other management thereof has been an accomplice to an offense or allowed the commission of the offense, or the care and diligence necessary for the prevention of the offense had not been observed in the operations of the corporation. There have been only a few cases in practice so far.

The territorial scope of Finnish criminal law is broad, although the recent reform (1996/626) has reduced it. Courts can deal not only with offenses committed in Finland (territorial principle), but also with offenses committed on a Finnish vessel or aircraft, offenses by Finnish citizens or by those who shall be equated with Finnish citizens (active personality principle), with offenses committed abroad against certain basic interests of Finland (i.e., if the offense is treason, if the act otherwise has seriously violated the state, military or economic rights or interests of Finland, or it is directed against a Finnish authority; protective principle) or with offenses committed against a Finnish citizen, a Finnish corporate body or against a foreign citizen domiciled in Finland (passive personality principle). Finnish law shall also be applied to certain other offenses committed outside of Finland, if the state in which area the offense has been committed has requested that charges be brought for the the offense in a Finnish court or has requested that the offender be extradited on the basis of the offense and this request has not been granted (the principle of vicarious administration of criminal justice). Furthermore, Finnish courts apply the universality principle of jurisdiction to certain serious international crimes (such as war crimes, genocide, serious drug offenses, hijacking, hostage taking and torture). In these cases the punishability of the act is based on an international agreement binding on Finland or on another statute or regulation internationally bindin on Finland. The requirement for double criminality is then not applied. Charges may not be brought for an offense committed outside Finland without the order of the Prosecutor-General.

The temporal scope of Finnish criminal law is defined in chapter 8 of the Criminal Code, on prescription, and in section 3 of the Enforcement of the Criminal Code Act (19 December 1889/39, as amended by Act 1990/770). According to the basic provision in section 3, the law in force at the time of the offense shall apply. If the law has subsequently been amended, the new law applies if this would result in lesser punishment.

A report of the Criminal Law Committee on the basic principles of the reform work was presented in 1976. This report recommended that the reform work begin from the basics, by assessing what types of behavior endanger central goals in society, which of these types of behavior are per se blameworthy, and, finally, which of these types of behavior should be criminalized. The report notes that criminal policy is closely linked to other approaches to social development. The criminal justice system is not the only, or even the most important, system for controlling behavior. Better results can be achieved by changing social structures and conditions conducive to crime, developing educational measures, and reducing the opportunity for crime. However, the criminal justice system is particularly important in demonstrating in a concrete manner the authoritative disapproval that society directs at blameworthy and harmful behavior. In this and in other connections the Committee emphasizes the significance of general prevention as opposed to individual prevention. According to the proposal, the new Criminal Code should embody provisions on at least all offenses subjected to the threat of imprisonment. The general severity of punishments should be lessened and, in particular, the use of imprisonment should be reduced. Present criminalizations in and outside of the Criminal Code should be reassessed; the punishment latitudes should be restricted, simplified and, in many cases, lowered, and some types of behavior should be decriminalized. Certain newer types of behavior considered dangerous to society should be criminalized.

In 1980, a criminal law reform project group ("task force") was appointed by the Ministry of Justice. The original terms of reference for this project group called for the preparation of a total reform of criminal law for presentation to Parliament in one package. Later on, the schedule of reform was amended, and the work has proceeded in several stages. In 1999, the project group was withdrawn. It was regarded that its task had mostly been fulfilled. The Government Bill regarding legislation on the first stage led to the Acts of 24 August 1990/769-834, which reformed approximately one third of the special part of the Criminal Code, as well as scattered provisions in 65 separate statutes. In the first stage of the reform of the criminal law, eleven chapters of the Criminal Code were amended: the chapters on theft, embezzlement and unauthorized use (chap. 28), offenses against the public economy (chap. 29), offenses in trade (chap. 30), robbery and extortion (chap. 31), receiving stolen property (chap. 32), forgery (chap. 33), damage to property (chap.

35), fraud and other dishonesty (chap. 36), means of payment offenses (chap. 37), violation of secrets (chap. 38), offenses by a debtor (chap. 39), and regulatory offenses and smuggling (chap. 46). The overall purpose of the first stage was two-fold. First, it was designed to bring the provisions on property and economic offenses in line with developments in society: not only has the new technology and developments in the financial market created new opportunities for offenders (e.g., computer offenses), it has increased the level of seriousness of certain already existing types of offenses. Second, the reform was designed to bring together the scattered penal provisions on economic activity (for example marketing offenses, consumer credit offenses, industrial espionage and bookkeeping offenses) into separate Criminal Code chapters. At the same time, the manner in which penal provisions were drafted was standardized, an attempt was made to maintain a consistent distinction between the petty, basic and aggravated forms of offenses, and an attempt was also made to standardize the penal scales. The modernization of the provisions can be seen in a number of ways. Among the new criminalizations are subsidy fraud and computer fraud (manipulation of a computer in order to change the result of data processing, and taking advantage of an error in data processing). A new chapter (chapter 37) brings together the provisions on "means of payment fraud". The scope of damage to property was expanded to include the destruction of recorded information. The scope of forgery was expanded by criminalizing, e.g., the preparation of a false or forged document or other piece of evidence, even if this is not used. Significant changes in practice in the penal scales for offenses covered by the first stage of the reform include the lowering of the maximum punishment for theft and embezzlement (from two years to 1,5 years) and the raising of the maximum punishment for certain economic crimes. Through the Acts of 21 April 1995 (1995/578- 747) another third of the special part of the Criminal Code was reformed. This second stage totally reformed twelve chapters of the Criminal Code, and amended several other chapters. In addition, 158 separate statutes are amended. Broadly speaking, the second stage dealt with three main issues. First, it dealt with aspects of economic crime (in the wide sense) not already dealt with in the first stage (for example, labor offenses and environmental offenses). Second, it dealt with certain so-called "traditional offenses", such as violent offenses and offenses presenting a general danger. Finally, it dealt with a miscellaneous group of petty offenses. One notable feature is that, in respect of environmental offenses, the second stage brought with it provisions on the attribution of individual criminal responsibility when an offense is committed within the framework of the activity of a corporate body or of other, corresponding, organized activity. Furthermore, the second stage introduced into Finnish law, as noted earlier, provisions on corporate responsibility. The second stage of the reform brought into the Criminal Code provisions which were previously scattered in a number of different statutes, for example on the violation of incorporeal rights or on the violation of confidences. At the same time, new penal provisions were adopted, for example on the violation of the secrecy of communications, unauthorized entry into a computer system ("hacking"), and unauthorized assumption of the care and custody of a child. The provisions on violent offenses remained basically the same. However, the reform provided an opportunity for reassessing the penal scales for these offenses. The third major partial reform of the Criminal Code (the Act of 24 July 1998; 1998/563) dealt with the penal provisions on offenses against adjudication, a public authority and public order as well as on sexual offenses (chapters 15-17 and 20 of the Criminal Code). The remaining stages of the reform, which are materializing in the becoming few years, are focused on the general preconditions of criminal liability, the revision of the system of criminal sanctions and the remaining very few chapters of the special part. At the final stage a fully recodified Criminal Code will be enacted so that the previous partial reforms are included in it in a coherent and unified way.


The crime rate in Finland is high compared to other industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Finland. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Finland will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 0.71 per 100,000 population for Finland, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 11.18 for Finland, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 53.06 for Finland, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 38.06 for Finland, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2000 was 1690.52 for Finland, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2000 was 2487.03 for Finland, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2000 was 34.66 for Finland, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 414.17 for USA. (Note that Finland disinguishes between "theft of motor cars" which had a rate of 34.66 and "Unauthorized use" which had a rate of 474.70 per 100,000) The rate for all index offenses combined was 4315.22 for Finland, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA. Finland's high crime rate is largely due to a high rate of property crimes. Crimes against person are low in Finland.


Between 1995 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 0.78 per 100,000 population to 0.71, a decrease of 9%. The rate for rape increased from 8.72 to 11.18, an increase of 28.2%. The rate of robbery increased from 44.99 to 53.06, an increase of 17.9%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 38.21 to 38.06 per 100,000, a decrease of 0.4%. The rate for burglary decreased from 1885.86 to 1690.52, a decrease of 10.4%. The rate of larceny decreased from 2627.02 to 2487.03, a decrease of 5.3%. The rate of motor vehicle theft decreased from 51.67 to 34.66 a decrease of 32.9%. The rate of total index offenses decreased from 4657.25 to 4315.22, a decrease of 7.3%.


The Finnish juridical system is manifestly rooted in western, Continental legal culture. The foundation for the Finnish legal system was laid during the more than 700 years when Finland was part of Sweden. The distinctive Nordic (Scandinavian) features have always been prevalent in the evolution of Finnish law and legal culture. Even the Russian hegemony in 1809-1917, when Finland had an autonomous status as the Grand Duchy under the Russian Czar, allowed Finland to maintain its fundamental laws from the time of Swedish rule.

There is a strong legalistic tradition in Finland. The Finnish legal system has, since the enactment of the Constitutional laws of 1919, followed a model of democratic Rechtsstaat. The basic sources of law are the Constitution and the Acts of Parliament. Below these stand the Decrees, which may be issued by the President of the Republic, the Government and a Ministry on the basis of authorization given to them in the Constitution or in another Act. The basic statute in procedural law is the Code of Judicial Procedure. This Code was originally part of the General Swedish Code of 1734. It has remained in force through to the present, although only a few significant provisions come from the original Code. One of the most important revisions of the Code was implemented from 1 December 1993 and it concerned civil proceedings in the lower courts. The reform aimed at the modernization of the civil proceedings to comply with the principles of oral, immediate and concentrated procedure. In 1993, the lower court system was also restructured. The reform of criminal proceedings in the lower courts entered into force on 1 October 1997, and the reform of the procedure in the Courts of Appeal was carried out one year later. In all, the recent changes in the judicial system indicate a period of significant legal transition. The basic statute in Finnish criminal law is the 1889 Criminal (Penal) Code (from 19 December 1889), which is still in force - although heavily amended since its initial adoption. The total reform of Finnish penal law has been under preparation since 1972, and a special Task Force appointed by the Ministry of Justice worked in 1980-1999 for the recodification. Several major partial amendments to the Criminal Code have been implemented since 1990, and the reform is now in its final stage. The general part of Finnish criminal law is largely regulated in chapters 1 through 9 of the Criminal Code. The special part of the criminal law is contained in chapters 10 through 51 of the Criminal Code and in various special statutes. Among the more important such statutes are the Traffic Act (1981/267) and the Alcohol Act (1994/1143). General provisions on criminal sanctions are also contained in other statutes, such as the Enforcement of the Criminal Code Act (19 December 1889), the Young Offenders Act (1940/262), the Dangerous Recidivists Act (1953/317), the Conditional Sentences Act (1976/135), and the Community Service Act (1996/1055). All of these statutes have been amended since they were initially adopted.


The basic statute on the police is the Police Administration Act (1992/110), which regulates the organization of the police. The Police Act (1995/493) regulates the functions of the police. Also the European Convention of Hu-man Rights (ECHR) has a binding effect on police. The police constitute a national police force that is organized under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior. There are three levels of organization: the national administration, the regional administration in each county, and the local administration in the police districts. The National Commissioner of the Police at the Police Department, which is part of the Ministry of the Interior, is the operational head of all police forces in Finland. Each regional administration is headed by a provincial police commissioner. As of 1 December 1996 there are 90 state local districts and in these unified or separate offices for police, prosecution and execution departments. Each police department is headed by a police chief.

The primary function of the police is to secure and maintain social structures, to maintain public order, to prevent crimes and to investigate crimes for the prosecution. The police must act impartially. All police powers that include infringements upon individual rights must be expressly permitted by law. In addition, all actions taken by the police must be properly grounded and proportional with respect to the importance and degree of urgency of the action in question. Furthermore, all actions must be in accordance with the principle of minimum intervention. The uniformed police are responsible for public safety duties, patrolling and the control of traffic. The criminal investigation police attend to the investigation of the more serious or the more involved criminal cases. The most difficult cases are dealt with by the National Bureau of Investigation, either on its own or in cooperation with the local police district. The police acts independently of other officials. This means that only the police are responsible for investigating the crime - the Public Prosecutor, for instance, does not formally lead the investigations (except for cases when a police officer is suspected of a crime).

The police have the right to use necessary force it they meet resistance carrying out their official duties. The force must be justifiable in view of the nature of the case. The justifiability of the force measures depends on the importance and urgency of the task, the dangerousness of the resistance, the resources at hand and on other underlying circumstances of the case as a whole. In accordance with the principles of minimum intervention and fairness, the primary approach to the maintenance of public order and safety is through advice, suggestions and orders. The Police Act includes detailed provisions on various preventive measures such as searches, confiscations, security checks and stopping of vehicles. Section 3 of the Police Act allows the police to gather information in preventive aims by means of technical surveillance and observation. Technical surveillance may be used to observe an individual or larger groups of people, such as traffic flow. Wire-tapping, telephone metering and bugging, on the other hand, are possible only in criminal investigations according to the Coercive Measures Act (1987/450) Chapter 5a. Recently, the police was granted the power to use telephone metering also in preventive aims. Telephone metering is now allowed in these cases when it is required to prevent a crime or a serious harm. The decision to use telephone metering is made by a court of law. However, if it would be too slow to apply for a court decision in urgent cases, the police is authorized to use telephone metering by its own initiative. In this case the police decision is subject to an immediate (within 24 hours after the use of the telephone metering) ex post court review. Also the scope of technical surveillance in preventive police work was widened so that it is now possible to use covert listening or technical observation also in prison buildings. The surveillance equipment can also be placed in any room or space, where technical surveillance is otherwise possible (i.e., not inside a room or building used as a permanent home). The court rules in these cases on the use of such a measure. The exercise of police powers, including the use of force, is subject to close supervision, not only by senior police officials, but also by the Ombudsman of Parliament and the Chancellor of Justice. The Ombudsman of Parliament and the Chancellor of Justice can, for example, either reprimand i.a. a police officer for unlawful conduct or neglect of duties, or even bring criminal charges for illegal actions.


The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the Government generally observes these prohibitions. Warrants are required for arrest. If an individual is arrested while committing a crime, a warrant must be obtained within 3 days. Once arrested the accused must be given a court hearing within 3 days. There is no system of bail except for very serious crimes. Preventative detention is only permitted during a declared state of war for narrowly defined offenses, such as treason, mutiny, and arms trafficking.


The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respects this provision in practice. The judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court, and the lower courts. The President appoints Supreme Court justices, who in turn appoint the lower court judges. Supreme Court justices may serve until their retirement, which usually is at age 63, although justices may serve until age 67.

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforces this right with vigor. Local courts may conduct a closed trial in juvenile, matrimonial, and guardianship cases, or when publicity would offend morality or endanger the security of the state. In national security cases, the judge may withhold from the public any or all information pertaining to charges, verdicts, and sentences. The law provides for sanctions against violators of such restrictions.

The judicial system is divided between courts with regular civil and criminal jurisdiction and special courts with responsibility for litigation between the public and the administrative organs of the state. Finnish law is codified. Although there is no writ of habeas corpus or bail, the maximum period of Pre-Trial detention has been reduced to 4 days. The Finnish court system consists of local courts, regional appellate courts, and a Supreme Court.

The investigation of an offense is governed by the Pre-Trial Investigation Act (1987/449) and the Coercive Means Act (1987/450), both of which came into force on 1 January 1989. The new statutes were adopted primarily in order to strengthen the legal safeguards of the suspect. The rights and obligations of suspects, victims, witnesses and others in pre-trial investigations are stated more explicitly in the new legislation.

The new Constitution of Finland entered into force on 1 March 2000. The Constitution guarantees a fair trial for everybody as laid down in law. Also the victim or the injured party has this right to a fair trial, which means that the Finnish Constitution goes in some respects even further than the ECHR (which only regulates the defendant). Fairness of a trial extends beyond court proceedings and covers the proceedings as a whole, i.e. also the fairness of the Pre-Trial investigations.

The general principles of pre-trial investigation are laid out in sections 5 through 12 of the Pre-Trial Investigation Act. The purpose of the investigation is to clarify the offense, the circumstances in which it was committed, the identity of the parties concerned as well as the other factors necessary for deciding on the bringing of charges and for the criminal proceedings. The pre-trial investigation is to be carried out without undue delay so that, whenever possible, all of the evidence can be presented to court at the time that the court begins to hear the charges.

Section 7 of the Pre-Trial Investigation Act states that everyone must be treated as innocent in pre-trial investigations (in accordance with section 6 paragraph 2 of the ECHR). A suspect or an accused has the right to remain silent, and he or she has no obligation to be active in any other way in order to establish his/her guilt, either. The police must investigate all cases objectively, i.e. they must take both incriminating facts as well as facts that are beneficial to the suspect into consideration. The suspect is to be treated in an appropriate and orderly fashion and no inappropriate or inhuman methods of inquiry are allowed. A party has also the right to know the results of the investigations as soon as possible without compromising the investigations. The police must also carry out reasonable and grounded hearings and investigations as requested by the suspect.

Before a suspect is questioned, he or she is to be informed of the offense in question and of his or her right to counsel during the investigation. On the request of the person being questioned, a qualified witness shall be present during the questioning, unless this would delay and thus endanger the success of the investigation. Both the suspect and the victim have the right to be present during the police questioning of other parties, unless there are special investigative reasons for excluding them.

The most important coercive measures in criminal procedure are apprehension, arrest and remand in custody. Other coercive measures include the interception of telecommunications (wiretapping), the

"metering" of telecommunications, "bugging" and technical visual surveillance, a prohibition against leaving a certain locality, a prohibition against losing an object, confiscation, bodily search and search of the premises.

Any person has the right to apprehend an offender caught in the act of an offense punishable by imprisonment. The offender is to be turned over immediately to the police. A policeman may apprehend a person for whom an arrest or remand warrant has been issued, or if the conditions for an arrest are present and the measure does not bear delay. Such a measure must be reported to an authority with powers of arrest, who shall decide within 24 hours whether the suspect shall be released or arrested. An authority with powers of arrest may arrest a person who is suspected with probable cause of an offense if the maximum sentence for the offense is imprisonment for at least one year and in addition it is probable that the suspect shall (1) seek to escape or evade justice, (2) seek to tamper with the evidence or influence witnesses or other parties or (3) continue his or her criminal activity. Furthermore, if the minimum sentence is imprisonment for two years, if the suspect refuses to identify himself or herself, or if he or she is not domiciled in Finland and it is probable that he or she shall seek to evade justice by leaving Finland, the suspect may be arrested even if the above conditions are not fulfilled. Even if there is no probable cause, a person may be arrested if the other conditions noted above are fulfilled and the arrest of the suspect for further investigations is deemed very important. However, no one may be arrested if this would be unreasonable in view of the nature of the case or of the age or other personal circumstances of the suspect. The arrested person may not be held longer than necessary. If a person is suspected on probable grounds of having committed an offense, he or she may be remanded in custody under the above conditions. Only the court may remand a suspect in custody. The request for remand must be presented to the court without delay, and in any case by noon on the third day from the date of apprehension. The court must deal with the matter within four days of the apprehension of the suspect. Postponement of the court hearings is possible for exceptional reason only, and no continuance for more than three days may be granted except on the request of the suspect. Pending a criminal trial, a court must rule ex officio on the question of custody on remand every two weeks. There is no system of remand on bail in Finland.

Chapter 5a of the Coercive Means Act, as amended by Act 1995/402, regulates the interception of telecommunications, the "metering" of telecommunications and the use of technical devices for listening to private discussions ("bugging"), exercising visual surveillance, or tracing the movements of a vehicle or goods. Wiretapping can be permitted only in the investigation of certain serious offenses, such as treason and high treason, homicide, the taking of hostages, aggravated robbery, professional concealment of unlawfully obtained property (including money laundering), skyjacking, aggravated counterfeiting and aggravated drug offenses. "Metering" of telecommunications can be permitted in the investigation of an offense for which the maximum punishment is at least four months or of a computer crime or a drug offense. "Bugging" is permitted only for investigation of an offense for which the maximum penalty is at least four years of imprisonment, and for drug offenses. Bugging can take place in public places and other places/rooms, except for those used for permanent living. It is further required that the expected evidence is assumed to be of very particular importance for the clarification of an offense mentioned above. Technical visual surveillance can be permitted under the same circumstances if the person in question is suspected of an offense for which the minimum punishment is more than six months. Since the original acceptance of these new measures, police powers for covert intelligence in the Coercive Measures Act have been widened. Therefore, a technical devise for covert listening and recording and/or visual surveillance can now be placed in a prison cell or elsewhere in a prison building. It is also possible to bug a vehicle or a room/space, that is not used as a permanent domicile. The decision on wiretapping and the "metering" of telecommunications is made by the court. The court decision is valid for at most one month. However, a new application by the police is permitted. The decision on "bugging", technical visual surveillance and the technical tracing of a vehicle or goods is made by the head of the investigation, and the decision is submitted within 24 hours for the confirmation of a senior police or customs official. However, when a technical devise for listening or watching is supposed to be placed in a room or inside a prison building, the decision for the coercive measure must be made by a court of law. In all cases, the decision is valid for at most one month. According to a specific provision on proportionality, the coercive measures in criminal proceedings can be used only if this is justifiable in view of the seriousness of the offense in question, the need to clarify the offense, the degree to which the measure violates the rights of the suspect or of other persons, and the other relevant circumstances.

Until recently, there were no provisions governing the use of so called under cover agents or fake propositions to buy illegal substances or stolen goods. The parliament reformed the Police Act on 29 November 2000 enabling the use of so called "evidence provocation" (for example, when the police asks a drug user to buy narcotics from a drug dealer in order to reveal his or her identity and to apprehend this person and to confiscate narcotics before they are sold further). Before this law reform such actions by the police have been ruled as unlawful by the Supreme Court.31 According to the new provisions, the police can use these methods both in criminal investigation and also in crime prevention. Under cover agents can only be used in investigations concerning very serious crimes, which are enumerated exhaustively. Fake-transactions can be used to prevent or to investigate a crime with a maximum penalty of at least two years imprisonment. Fake-transactions can also be used to find and to retrieve stolen or otherwise illegally held property in connection and as a result of a crime mentioned above, or benefits from such crimes. It is always prohibited to use these new, unconventional methods, if it would result in instigating a new crime.

If no offense has been committed or no one can be prosecuted for the offense, the file is closed. Furthermore, the police may waive further measures or simply caution the offender if the offense as a whole is deemed to be manifestly petty, and the offense would be punishable only by a fine. If the case involves an injured party, a further condition for waiving measures or simply cautioning the offender is that the victim does not present any claims. In all other cases, once the investigation has been concluded, the file is turned over to the prosecutor. In practice, however, the police can impose fines, in the form of summary penal judgments. According to the Summary Penal Judgment Act (1993/692), a simplified penal procedure can be applied to acts which, under the circumstances, would be punishable by at most a fine or imprisonment for six months, or which constitutes a violation solely of a police or municipal ordinance. In such cases the authority investigating the offense (generally the police, but also for example a customs official) imposes a day-fine on the alleged offender in the form of a "penal order". This penal order is then affirmed by a prosecutor. However, the alleged offender can bring the matter to court within a week, in which case the normal criminal procedure shall be followed.

The ground for the organization of an independent court system is laid down in the Chapter I, section 3 and in the Chapter IX of the Constitution of Finland. The court procedure for criminal trials was based solely on the Code of Judicial Procedure till 1 October 1997, when the Code of Criminal Procedure (1997/689) entered into force. The Code of Judicial Procedure is still relevant for both civil- and criminal trials, but the crux of criminal procedural provisions are now in the new Code. The Code of Criminal Procedure changed the position of the judge as well as that of the public prosecutor quite radically. The new criminal procedure is mainly accusatorial in its nature, which means that the public prosecutor (as a party) bears the burden of proof and he/she has the responsibility to prove the defendantís guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The court remains relatively passive through the whole proceedings, although it is naturally the courtís duty to clear possible ambiguities and "fill in gaps" in the trial material. The criminal procedure is based on the principles of concentration of the proceedings, oral hearings and the principle of immediacy. Postponement of the proceedings is possible only due to a very important reason mentioned in the Code. All evidence must be presented in the trial orally and the opposing party has the right to cross-examine all evidence presented against him/her as guaranteed in the ECHR article 6. The principle of immediacy means that it is no longer possible to substitute witness hearings by reading of police reports (which was the main rule before the reform). The police file can be read out only, if it is no longer possible to hear the witness in court (e.g., because of his/her death or severe illness), or if the witness will not say anything or if the witnesses narrative differs from what he/she has previously told to the police. Charges for an offense can be brought either by the public prosecutor (as noted above) or the injured party (victim). The right of the injured party to prosecute extends to all categories of offenses. This right was restricted in the procedural reform so that the injured party no longer has an independent right to prosecute. The injured party can now bring a charge for both a public prosecution offense as well as for a complainant offense first after a public prosecutor has decided not to bring charges.

The court system in Finland is arranged in three tiers. The court of first instance for all offenses (with the minor exception of, inter alia, offenses committed by senior government officials) is the local court. Appeals are heard by the six courts of appeal. The highest level is the Supreme Court, to which appeals can go only if the Supreme Court grants leave of appeal. The normal composition of the local court is one legally trained judge and three lay judges. If called for by the complexity of the matter or other special reasons, the composition may be supplemented by a second legally trained judge and a fourth lay judge. Simple criminal cases may also be dealt with in the local court by one legally trained judge sitting alone if the maximum punishment for the offense in question, under the circumstances, is a fine or imprisonment for eighteen months. Should the case be dealt with in this way, the judge can impose at most a fine.

Also military offenses, which are covered by chapter 45 of the Criminal Code, are dealt with by the ordinary courts. According to the Military Court Act (1983/326), military offenses are heard by a legally trained judge and two military judges. A special military lawyer serves as the prosecutor. In other respects, ordinary criminal procedure is followed in military cases.

Criminal proceedings are normally held before the local court with general jurisdiction over the place where the offense was committed. If a series of offenses was committed, all of them can be considered by one and the same court.

A process is initiated when a written application for summons is delivered (by the prosecution or an injured party) to the court. The main trial does not start by the accused being remanded in custody (on the basis of the Coercive Means Act). The application for summons must include detailed information about the defendant, the alleged offense and prosecutorís demands, both penal and civil. It must also be specified in the application for summons, which evidence is going to be put forward in the trial, as well as what is intended to be proven by each piece of evidence. The court then controls whether the application for summons is complete, and may ask the applicant (public prosecutor or injured party) for further information that is required. The court may also notify the public prosecutor of any lack in the investigation, which would result into postponements of the trial, and order the prosecution to attend to further investigations. It is not a task (or even permitted) for the court, however, to gather evidence against the defendant. At this stage, the court must only see to that the required elements for a fair and concentrated proceedings are being met, before issuing a summons.

A summons is served normally by the court, although this task can be entrusted to the prosecution, too. In the case of a complainant offense, the summons may also be given by the victim of the alleged offense. In a summons, the defendant is asked to reply in written (or orally) to the demands presented in the application for summons, i.e. to present grounds for denial and supporting evidence for defenseís own claims. As a rule, both the defendant and the injured party are required to attend to the trial in person. A defendant may be sentenced to a maximum 3 months imprisonment or fines in his/her absence, if the defendantís attendance is not needed for a court ruling and the defendant has been informed of this possibility in a summons.

In the criminal proceedings, the public prosecutor, the victim (if the alleged offense has a victim) and the defendant are all parties. The case normally begins with the court noting the presence of the parties. After this, the public prosecutor and the victim are invited to present their claims. The defendant then has the opportunity to respond to the claims, both penal and civil. All of the parties have the right to introduce evidence, either in the form of physical evidence or by witnesses and expert witnesses. A person called to testify as a witness may not refuse to do so unless he or she is a close relative of one of the parties. If the person summoned as a witness is below the age of fifteen or may be mentally unfit, the court must decide whether or not he or she should be required to serve as a witness. Even if called as a witness, certain persons (civil servants, medical personnel, legal counsel and priests) have the obligation to refuse to testify on certain matters. Anyone may refuse to give evidence that may incriminate the witness him- or her-self, or a close relative of the witness. The court may not require that professional or commercial secrets be revealed unless there are particularly important reasons for this.

The prosecutor has the burden of proof in demonstrating the guilt of the defendant beyond reasonable doubt. There is no exclusionary rule doctrine that would require the court to disregard certain types of evidence. Rules entitling and/or obligating a witness to avoid giving a witness narrative or answering to a question must be followed, nevertheless. As mentioned earlier, the use of police files is also prohibited as evidence. The court may also exclude pieces of evidence that have been obtained violating defendantís fundamental or human rights (such as torture or other degrading method).48 However, as a general rule, the court is simply required to weigh everything that has been revealed in the case in order to "decide what is to be deemed the truth in the matter". In cases of doubt, the defendant is to be acquitted in accordance with the favor defensionis principle.

The chairperson of the court is charged with ensuring that the case is dealt with in a clear and logical manner. Witnesses are no longer examined by the judge, which task is now entrusted to the parties. Examination-in-chief is done by the party that has called the witness. The witness must be given a chance to free a narrative, which, however, does not exclude complementary, necessary questions. After the examination-in-chief, the opposing party may cross-examine the witness - at this stage also leading questions are allowed in order to establish the veracity of the witness and/or the reliability of the witness statement. There is also a possibility of re-examination. The judge is entitled to ask supplementary questions to each person that is heard in court. However, it is essential that the judge remains neutral and does not give raise to suspicions, that he or she tries to establish the guilt of the defendant. Also other person involved in the proceedings are examined mutatis mutandis in a similar fashion, i.e. the injured party, expert witnesses and also the defendant.

It is possible to arrange examinations in some other order, too, if the court so decides (this, however, takes place quite seldom). Oral statements are recorded but they are not entered into the records.

Both the defendant and the victim have the right to legal counsel. On the other hand, they do not normally have the obligation to be represented by counsel: they can, if they so choose, decide to present their case themselves. However, the court must appoint a public legal counsel for the defendant in certain cases, namely if the defendant is not capable of defending him- or herself, the defendant is less than 18 years old, the legal counsel of the defendantís choice can not appropriately defend his/her client, or if there are some other weighty reasons. The court must also appoint a legal counsel on his or her application, if the crime in question is punishable by no less than four months of imprisonment or if the defendant is arrested or remanded in custody. Finland has a system of state legal aid that covers all of the country. Public legal aid includes totally or partially free (depending on the wealth and the income of the applicant) juridical counseling before and during the trial. The defendant, for example, may be entitled to free legal counsel during the police investigations and during the trial. If a party to a case cannot afford the services of a legal counsel, he or she can request cost-free proceedings. This right also extends to foreign citizens. The right relieves the party of the obligation to pay court costs and the expenses of counsel appointed on the basis of this Act. Cost-free proceedings will not be granted if the case is of little significance to the party. The benefit of cost-free proceedings extends to the police investigation of an offense regardless of whether or not the case is brought to court. If the recipient of the benefit of cost-free proceedings is not able to defend his or her interests and rights in the case in an appropriate manner, the court must appoint legal counsel for him or her. Counsel will not be appointed for a defendant in simple criminal ases where the expected punishment is a fine or where otherwise, in view of the expected punishment and the degree to which the matter has been clarified, due process for the defendant does not require this. If the court appoints counsel, this person must be a member of the Bar Association or another competent person. If the defendant is remanded in custody, or he or she is under eighteen and the offense may lead to imprisonment, the counsel must normally be an advocate, i.e. a member of the Bar

Association. The Bar Association of Finland is subject to special supervision by the Chancellor of Justice. A legally trained person may become a member of the Bar Association only if the applicant is considered to be honest and otherwise competent to serve as an advocate, has full legal capacity, and has obtained a certain amount of practical experience.

The defendant, the prosecutor and the victim each have an independent right to appeal the decision of the court. The appeal may pertain to all or part of the grounds of the decision or the sentence. Appellate courts review the lower courtís ruling both for factual and legal grounds. The law on the procedure in the court of appeal was reformed on 1 May 1998. The procedure for appellate courts underwent a total reform due to the adaptation of principles of oral hearing, concentration and immediacy. Now, the court of appeal must order an oral hearing, if the outcome of the case depends on the credibility of oral evidence, that was presented in a lower court. The defendant has a wide-ranging right to oral hearing also in other cases, when he or she so applies. In oral hearings, all evidence must be presented for a second time directly to the appellate court in stead of just making a reference to previous documents. The reform enabled Finland to remove the reservation concerning the right to an oral hearing before, i.a., court of appeal, it made when the European Convention on Human Rights was ratified.. There are six courts of appeal, the decisions of which are subject to appeal to the Supreme Court only if this Court grants leave of appeal.

If the convicted defendant is sentenced to (unsuspended) imprisonment, the court may order that he or she be remanded or, if already remanded, continue to be held in remand. This is possible if the sentence is imprisonment for at least two years or, if the sentence is at least one year, it is furthermore probable that the convicted defendant will escape, avoid enforcement, or continue his or her criminal activity. A remand order is possible also for shorter sentences if (a) the convicted defendant is not resident in Finland and it is probable that he or she will leave the country in order to avoid enforcement, or (b) the convicted defendant has been sentenced to imprisonment for several offenses committed at short intervals and the remand is necessary in order to prevent the continuation of criminal activity of a similar degree of seriousness. If the convicted defendant is in remand and decides not to appeal the sentence of imprisonment, enforcement of the sentence may be initiated with his or her consent even if the decision has been appealed in other respects.

Precedents are not binding sources of law in the Finnish legal system. However, the Supreme Court does have a significant role de facto in guiding the application of law. This role became more important in 1980, when appeals from the courts of appeal to the Supreme Court were restricted. The role of Supreme Court precedents is also made more important by the practice of publishing brief descriptions of the most important decisions of the Supreme Court. These are published not only in the annual report of the Supreme Court, but also commented in some of the leading law reviews. They are also available in an electronic format through the FINLEX data bank and in the internet.

Sentencing in Finland is relatively uniform, in accordance with the principle of predictability. The uniformity of sentencing has been further enhanced by the adoption of specific statutory sentencing principles. These principles state, inter alia, that the courts must consider the uniformity of sentencing. The sentence must be in just proportion to the dangerousness and harmfulness of the offense as well as to the guilt of the offender manifested in the offense. The sentencing principles set out specific aggravating and mitigating factors. The mitigating factors are stated in a more flexible and open form than the aggravating factors, thus allowing the courts greater discretion in reducing the severity of the punishment.

The court may waive punishment if: 1) the offense, when assessed as a whole, considering its harmfulness and the degree of culpability of the offender indicated by it, is to be deemed of minor significance; 2) the offense is to be deemed excusable because of special reasons concerning the act or the offender; 3) punishment is to be deemed unreasonable or pointless, considering the victim-offender reconciliation or the action taken be the offender to prevent or eliminate the effects of the offense, or to further its being cleared up, his or her personal circumstances, the other consequences that he or she incurs because of the offense, social welfare and health measures; or 4) as a consequence of the provisions on the concurrence of offenses, the offense would not essentially affect the total sentence. A special provision on the waiving of prosecution and punishment for offenses related to the use of narcotics is found in chapter 50, section 7 of the Criminal Code. Such measures may be waived if the offender demonstrates that he or she has agreed to treatment approved by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

The only general forms of punishment in Finland are the summary penal fee, fine, community service and imprisonment. The summary penal fee ("petty fine") was adopted in 1983; the revised provisions were given in 1999. 65 If the offender defaults on payment of a summary penal fee, the fine may not be converted into imprisonment. So far, petty fines are used only for minor traffic offenses and for littering. Finland adopted the day-fine system in 1921, as the first Nordic country to do so.66 Accordinly, a fine shall be passed by day-fines (from 1 to 120). The size of the sum depends on the monthly income and assets of the offender. The amount of a day-fine shall be set so that it is reasonable in view to the solvency of the person fined. One sixtieth of the average monthly income of the person fined, less the taxes and fees defined by a Decree and a fixed deduction for basis comsumption. If the offender has difficulty in paying the day-fine, the period of payment may be extended or the offender may be allowed to pay in instalments. If the offender persists in defaulting on payment, the day-fine may be converted into imprisonment at the rate of one day of imprisonment for two day-fines. The converted imprisonment is at least four and at most ninety days. The law also allows for mitigation or waiver of the converted sentence on special grounds. Community service entered the Finnish legal system through the Act of 14 December 1990 (1990/1105). This Act called for an experimental period of three years (1 January 1991 - 31 December 1993), during which the sanction would be tested in 12 rural districts and six cities. The experiment was subsequently expanded, and the Act of 25 March 1994 (1994/227) ultimately extended it to all Finnish courts, for an experimental period ending 31 December 1996. The Act of 12 December 1996 (1996/1055) established this sanction permanently. Community service is specified by section 1 of 1996/1055 as "a punishment in place of unconditional imprisonment. It consists of at least 20 and at most 200 hours' regular, unpaid work under supervision". At most five hours can served by using health care services for abusers of intoxicants. Community service can replace sentences of up to eight months (section 3). Imposition of community service requires the consent of the offender as well as the assumption that he or she would complete successfully the sentence. The enforcement and supervision of community service is under the responsibility of the Probation and After-Care Administration. It can issue a warning to an offender who is not fulfilling the conditions of the community service, and must inform the public prosecutor if the violation of the conditions is serious. The public prosecutor, in turn, can request that the court converts the sentence to imprisonment. It has been evaluated that, within a short period of time, community service has proven to be an important alternative to imprisonment. In 1998, the average daily number of offenders serving a community service order was about 1,800, while the corresponding prison rate was 2,800. The major part of this sanction has been imposed for drunken driving. The general minimum period of imprisonment is fourteen days. The general maximum is twelve years or, when combining sentences, fifteen years. Certain most serious crimes, primarily murder, are punishable by life imprisonment. Capital punishment cannot be imposed in Finland. Capital punishment has not been applied in practice in times of peace for over 150 years. In 1972, it was prohibited even in times of war. In most cases sentences of imprisonment are of fixed length. The court establishes this length within the specific minimum and maximum sentence set by the penal provision for the offense in question. Sentences of up to two years can be set conditionally ("suspended sentence"). A subsidiary fine can be attached to conditional imprisonment. The period of suspension is from one to three years. If the offender commits a new offense during this period for which he or she is sentenced to imprisonment, the court may order that also the suspended sentence is to be enforced in full or in part. In practice, some two thirds of all sentences of imprisonment are suspended.

As noted earlier, persons who were under 18 years at the time of the offense can not be sentenced to imprisonment unless there is a weighty reason for this. Before the reform, the daily prison population had included some 20 15-to-17 years olds and somewhat over 200 prisoners below 21 years. On 1 May 1999, the number of prisoners between 15 and 17 years was three, and the number of prisoners between 18 and 20 was 61. Through the Act of 12 December 1996 (1996/1058) a new sanction called juvenile punishment was introduced, and it is applicable for an experimental period of five years (1 February 1997 - 31 December 2001) in seven district courts. This punishment may be imposed to an offender who was under 18 years at the time of the offense under the condition that fine is to be deemed insufficient, when the seriousness of the offense and the other circumstances connected with the offense are taken into account, and unconditional sentencing is not necessacy. Juvenile punishment consists of so-called juvenile service (at least 10 and at most 60 hours) and of supervision. The sanction can be regarded as a modification of community service.

Civil servants are subject to special penal provisions and certain special punishments. The sanctions for civil servants include the general sanctions of a fine or imprisonment, and the special sanctions of a caution and dismissal from office (chapter 2, section 2 of the Criminal Code). Suspension from office can not be used as a penal sanction, although it is possible as a disciplinary sanction. Civil servants are defined on the basis of their position and of the type of functions for which they are responsible; ultimately, whether or not a person "exercises public power" decides his or her status as a civil servant under criminal law. Chapter 2, section 12 expressly defines an "official" to include not only civil servants working for the State, a municipality, one of the two State Churches or some other public institution, but also (1) members of e.g. municipal councils and other elected representatives of the public (not, however, members of Parliament), (2) (with some exceptions) any person who exercises public power on the basis of law and (3) a person who otherwise on said basis exercises public power other than in a corporation. However, according to section 10, the provisions on removal from office do not apply to elected representatives of the public. Chapter 2, section 7 of the Criminal Code defines the scope of removal from office to be the loss of the office or public function in which the offense was committed or, if the official has transferred to another and comparable public office, the loss of this latter office.

Military personnel are subject to military discipline. Disciplinary punishment imposed in a disciplinary matter is subject to appeal to court. The lesser punishments (confinement to barracks, extra duty and a caution) are not subject to appeal to an ordinary court.

In many cases, an offender is found guilty of more than one offense. In such a case, one joint sentence is to be set, regardless of whether these offenses were committed in one or in separate acts. The minimum joint sentence is the highest minimum of all the offenses for which sentence is to be passed. The maximum cannot be more than the combined maximums of the different offenses, and at most fifteen years (or, in the case of murder, life imprisonment). Furthermore, the most severe maximum may not be exceeded by more than: (1) one year, if the most severe maximum sentence is imprisonment for less than one year and six months;(2) two years, if the most severe maximum sentence is imprisonment for at least one year and six months but less than four years; and 3) three years, if the most severe maximum sentence is at least four years. If fines are to be joined, the maximum is 240 day-fines.


Victim-offender reconciliation. The purpose of victim-offender reconciliation is to seek alternatives to the conflicts on which crimes and civil suits are often based, and to offer a simple way of solving these conflicts outside of the court system. The emphasis is on the acceptance of personal responsibility for the act and the harm caused, and the offender and victim seek to find a mutually satisfactory resolution. The first reconciliation program in Finland was initiated in the city of Vantaa in the Helsinki metropolitan area in 1983. From there, it has gradually expanded to over 175 cities and other municipalities. During 1995, a total of some 3,000 conflicts involving 4,600 suspected offenders were submitted to the various reconciliation programs. At present, Finland has some 1,200 voluntary mediators, most of whom have received some training, and about 75 % of the Finnish population have a chance to engage in mediation. Generally, the local program is managed by the municipal social welfare office, although in some municipalities, the work is carried out by an independent organization. The initiative for submitting cases to reconciliation generally comes from the police or other authorities. However, the consent of all parties is required before going to reconciliation. Most cases that come for reconciliation are thefts, petty thefts, assaults and incidents of damage to property. The victim-offender reconciliation programs have received a recognized legal status (trough an amendment of 1996/1059), because a reconciliation may influence the decision of the prosecutor to waive further measures, or the decision of the court to waive the punishment.

The public prosecutors in the lower courts of general jurisdiction are the district prosecutors, i.e. prosecutors who are working in the prosecution departments of the state local districts (totally 90 in the whole country). A separate office for the Prosecutor-General was established on 1 December 1997, abolishing the role of the Chancellor of Justice as the supreme prosecutor in Finland. The Finnish Constitution states that the ProsecutorGeneral is the head of all prosecutors.34 The ProsecutorGeneral has a deputy and a number of state prosecutors for dealing with the most difficult cases in the whole country. The Public Prosecutors Act (199/1997) states that all public prosecutors decide independently about charges. The District Prosecutor Act (195/1996) states that public prosecutors have jurisdiction only within a certain state local district. They have the general competence to prosecute and act in all kinds of criminal charges in local district courts.

From the point of view of prosecution, offenses are divided into those that are subject to public prosecution and those where prosecution is possible only on the request of the victim (so-called "complainant offenses"). The complainant offenses are generally petty offenses where there is little public interest in prosecution, and only the victim is in a position to know if his or her interests have been violated (e.g., defamation and trespassing). However, also certain more serious offenses may be prosecuted only if the victim requests this (for example, some sexual and violent offenses).

If the legal conditions for prosecution exist, the prosecutor must prosecute for offenses that come to his or her attention. However, the prosecutor may waive prosecution on the grounds of the pettiness of the offense, equity, or procedural economy. The prosecutor also has the option of cautioning the offender. More specifically, the prosecutor may waive charges on the following grounds: - pettiness: if the expected sanction would be at most a fine and the offense is deemed petty as a whole. If the offender was under 18 years at the time, prosecution can even be waived if the expected sanction is up to imprisonment for six months, and the offense is deemed to have been due to lack of understanding or heedlessness, and not to blatant disregard of the law. It is notable that the scope of this provision is not restricted to offenses carrying a certain maximum in abstracto; instead, the reference is to the expected punishment in concreto. - equity: if trial and punishment are deemed unreasonable or inappropriate in view of the attempts of the offender to prevent or eliminate the consequences of the offense (for example, reconciliation), of his or her personal circumstances, of the other consequences of the offense to the offender, of social welfare and health care measures instituted, or of other factors. - procedural economy: if, due to the provisions on the cumulation of offenses, the individual offense would not essentially affect the over-all punishment. Should the prosecutor decide to waive measures, the victim must be notified of this decision. As noted below, the victim then has the right to prosecute for the offense him- or herself.

The legal position of the victim of crime has traditionally been very strong in Finland, and the new criminal procedure has made this position even stronger in some respects. The position of the injured party has become somewhat weaker in some aspects, too. The injured party can bring a charge first after a public prosecutor has decided not to bring charges. However, the injured party may take over the function of the prosecutor, if the latter decides to withdraw charges during a trial. The public prosecutor is obliged to present the possible civil claims of the victim on behalf of the injured party. So, the victim has always the right, in criminal proceedings, to present civil demands on the basis of the offense, but his or her right to present penal demands has been reduced. The injured party may also get legal counsel for pre-trial investigations as well as for court proceedings in cases concerning certain violent or sexual crimes, if the injured party wishes to present his or her own demands at trial besides the public prosecutor. The counsel must be a member of the Bar Association or, in special cases, another person with a legal degree. If the victim of a sexual of violent offense has no demands or claims, but it is still necessary to hear him or her in evidence, the court may appoint a special assistant with a suitable training to the task to support the victim in pre-trial investigations and/or the trial.

In most cases, criminal charges are presented by the public prosecutor. This is also the case in respect of the so-called complainant offenses, for which charges cannot be brought without the request of the victim. If the complainant requests prosecution for a complainant offense, the public prosecutor is obliged to bring charges unless the evidence in support of prosecution is so slight that the prosecution would not be based on probable cause.

In many cases, the offender is not apprehended or, if brought to justice, is not always able to pay compensation to the victim. Although all citizens can receive social security, and the majority of householders are covered by comprehensive insurance policies, these do not necessarily cover the full loss caused by the offense. Finland, as one of the first countries in Europe, adopted a Victim Compensation Act (1973/935), according to which victims of crime have the right to receive compensation from the State. The Finnish Victim Compensation Act is one of the most comprehensive in the world. It covers all personal injuries arising from any offense. Persons suffering from such personal injury have the right to compensation for medical expenses and other related expenses, disability, loss of maintenance, and any articles of clothing or, e.g., glasses damaged in connection with the injury. The employer of an injured person has the right to compensation for any wages paid to the victim while he or she is disabled. Property damage caused by an institutionalized person, as well as property damage that imposes exceptional hardship on the victim, are also covered by the Act. The Victim Compensation Act covers loss resulting from a crime committed in Finland regardless of the nationality of the victim or offender, unless there is only a slight connection between the loss and Finland. If the victim is domiciled in Finland, the Act also covers personal injury suffered from a crime committed abroad.

Finland does not, at present, have State or municipal victim assistance offices such as are to be found in some other European countries. (However, many organizations such as the Red Cross, church organizations and women's rights organizations do provide some services for victims.) Although victims have the same right as any other citizens to the general health and mental health care services, and to municipal legal aid and cost-free legal proceedings based on need, the absence of government support for special victim services is a cause of concern.


Those sentenced to imprisonment, imprisoned for the nonpayment of fines or held in remand custody are executed under the responsibility of the Department for Punishment Enforcement of the Ministry of Justice. The prison administration covers closed and open prisons, the Prison Mental Hospital and the Prison Personnel Training Centre.

There are two types of prisons, closed prisons and open institutions. The open institutions, which hold about one fourth of the present (1999) prison population, are permanently located open prisons, open units connected with closed prisons, open colonies and one training centre. The regime in open institutions is more relaxed. In addition, the prisoners in open institutions are paid wages that are comparable to those in civilian life; from these wages, they pay taxes and maintenance allowance for their wife or husband and children as well as for their board and lodging. The closed prisons are primarily either central prisons or provincial prisons. In addition, there is one juvenile prison. The central prisons are primarily intended for prisoners serving a sentence while the provincial prisons are intended for suspects remanded for trial. In 1999, the average number of prisoners was 2,743 (65 per 100,000 inhabitants over 15 years). There were 132 female prisoners and 151 foreign prisoners at the end of 1999. The average number of remand prisoners during 1999 was 354 and the number of persons in prison for unpaid fines 102. The juvenile prison is based on the Young Offenders Act (1940/262), which was adopted during the period when individualization of punishment was emphasized, in particular for juveniles. If a juvenile offender (defined as a person below the age of twenty-one years at the time of the offense) is sentenced for one or more offenses to imprisonment, a special body called the Prison Board determines whether he or she shall be sent to an ordinary prison or to juvenile prison. Since release on parole is possible at an earlier stage in juvenile prison (after one third of the sentence has been served, as opposed to after one half in other prisons), the preference is for placement in the juvenile prison.

Remand imprisonment (pre-trial custody). As long as the prisoner is in remand prison, his or her liberty may be limited only to the extent required by the purpose of the custody, the security of confinement in prison and the maintenance of order. Consequently, for example, the remand prisoner is not required to work, study or take part in other activities in prison.

The conditions of prisoners serving a sentence should be arranged so that they correspond as much as possible to living conditions in society in general, and the sentence should be carried out so that the punishment only entails the loss of liberty. Although restrictions may be made to the extent required by the security of custody and the maintenance of order, the sentence should be enforced so that it does not needlessly hinder, but instead promotes, the placement of the prisoner in society. Prisoners serving a sentence are obliged to work, study or take part in other activities organized or accepted by the institution. In 1999, 66 % of the prisoners were taking part in some kind of activities during working hours.

Owing to the length of the prison term an inmate can apply for leave when half of the term has been served. Leave may on important grounds be granted even earlier. Leaves may be granted in all for maximum six days and nights during a period of four months. In 1999, 11,500 prison leaves were used. In 92% of these, the conditions of the leave were observed.

According to the Dangerous Recidivists Act, persons guilty of repeated violent offenses such as murder, premeditated manslaughter, aggravated assault, or robbery or rape with aggravated violence may be sentenced to "preventive detention" as dangerous recidivists. In this case, once the original sentence is served, the national Prison Board determines whether or not the offender continues to present an evident and serious danger to the life or health of another. If this is the case, the offender will stay in preventive detention. The Prison Board reviews the case at least once every six months. In practice, prisoners detained under this Act serve the full term of their original sentence and are then released on parole. At the end of 1999, 21 prisoners were being held in preventive detention.

After the offender has served fourteen days in prison, he or she is eligible for parole. First-time prisoners are generally released on parole after they have served one-half, recidivist prisoners after they have served two-thirds of their sentence. Prisoners serving a life sentence may be paroled only on the basis of a pardon granted by the President of the Republic. As noted above, offenders who have been placed in juvenile prison are usually released on parole after having served one-third of their sentence.

Paroled prisoners may be placed under supervision for the remainder of their original sentence (for a minimum of three months and a maximum of three years). In 1999, 23 % of paroled prisoners were placed under supervision. If the paroled prisoner commits a new offense during this period, the court must decide whether or not the prisoner is to be returned to prison to serve the remaining period. Loss of parole is also possible for behavioral infractions. Also in this case the decision is made by the court


Violence against women was a problem, and the Government took steps to combat it. Police statistics for 2000 recorded 2,876 cases of domestic violence, 51 more than during the previous year. Of the victims, 2,280 were women, and 596 were men. A total of 579 cases of rape were reported to the police in 2000, compared with 514 in 1999. Government experts say that as many as half, if not more, of all rape cases may go unreported. The law specifically criminalizes rape, spousal rape, and domestic abuse. The law provides for stringent penalties for violence against women; the police and the courts vigorously enforce this provision. There were reports of trafficking in women for prostitution.

The number of calls to the police concerned with domestic violence is not compiled centrally, but it is estimated at 10,000 to 12,000 annually. Shelter officials state that the figure represents less than half of the number of actual incidents. The Union of Shelter Homes, as well as the municipalities, maintain homes all over the country for female, male, adult, and child victims of violence; the total number of shelters is approximately 20. Officials have established some shelter homes for minors as well, mainly 15 to 18 year olds. Most of the persons seeking shelter are women between 25 and 35 years of age, either married or in a common-law relationship, and nearly one-third are immigrants.


The Government is strongly committed to children's rights and welfare; it amply funds systems of public education and medical care. Education is free and compulsory for children between 7 and 16 years-of-age. More than 99 percent of children between these ages attend school, and girls and boys are treated equally in the education system.

There is no pattern of societal abuse of children, and the national consensus supporting children's rights is reflected in law. There were reports of trafficking in children for prostitution.


The law doe not explicitly prohibit trafficking in persons, although trafficking can be prosecuted under other statutes; there were reports that trafficking occurred. The country is a destination and transit country for trafficking in persons. According to the Government, most trafficking involves women and girls for prostitution from Russia and Estonia.

During the year 2001, the Government and local NGO's made efforts to prevent trafficking. The Government has a leading role in promoting the EU's antitrafficking "STOP" project, which is an effort to create a multinational network to monitor, analyze, and combat trafficking in persons.

While the law does not specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, traffickers can be prosecuted under other laws that prohibit slavery, the exploitation of prostitution by means of coercion or fraud, pimping and other related activities, and arranging illegal entries. There have been few cases in which the authorities prosecuted traffickers; however, according to the Government, the trafficker is often abroad and therefore difficult to prosecute.

The law includes provisions for witness protection, although no specific program initiates and regulates such policies. Legal council is provided to victims as well as medical care and psychological counseling. The Government participates in the funding of shelters, which are generally municipally run.


Finland is not a significant narcotics trafficking or money laundering country, although there is some illicit marijuana cultivation, mostly for personal use. According to the police, drug abuse has risen steadily in Finland during the 1990s, due to greater experimentation by young people and to a growing gap between police resources and incidents of drug abuse. An efficient and professional law enforcement community nonetheless vigorously combats drug abuse and narcotics trafficking, regularly intercepting major shipments and denying traffickers an easy transit point and market. There is no known narcotics-related corruption in Finland. Effective controls on the Russian border have prevented the overland route from developing into a trafficking conduit. The police are concerned, however, about heroin and amphetamine shipments arriving from the St. Petersburg area and from the Baltic Republics, respectively. Finland is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, is a major donor member of the UNDCP, and is active in counternarcotics initiatives within the European Union. Finland has no bilateral counter-narcotics treaties with the United States.

Finland remains an insignificant country with respect to narcotics production, trafficking, cultivation, and production/diversion of precursor chemicals. Finnish law enforcement authorities effectively counter the threat of trafficking from abroad and energetically combat domestic abuse. Estonia, The Netherlands, and Russia are Finland's main sources of illicit drugs. Hashish is the drug most often seized by the Finnish police. Trafficking in highly purified amphetamines from Estonia, including the drug "ecstasy," is a continuing concern for Finland. According to the police, these drugs are not manufactured in the Baltic region, but are produced elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Finnish authorities report that their land border with Russia remains well guarded, by both countries, and has thus not become a significant narcotics transit route. They nonetheless express concern about a new development in 1998, the arrival in southern Finland of high-quality, powerful heroin from the St. Petersburg area. Despite a decline in the amount of heroin seized during the first nine months of 1998, as compared to the first nine months of 1997, the Finns say the stronger heroin being seized is intended for the local Finnish market and is not mainly, as in the past, merely transiting Finland. As a whole Finland is still believed to be a merely a transportation port from the New Independent States and the Baltic's for points west. A police liaison officer assigned to the Finnish consulate general in St. Petersburg works with the Russian authorities to combat this and other threats to Finland.


Internet research assisted by Joanne Clingan and Jeff Wolman

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